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Diabetes: Do you Have Diabetes? Are You at Risk?
By Rhonda Moore Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., medical director, Highmark Inc.
November is American Diabetes Month
Diabetes affects nearly 24 million Americans, and African-Americans are more than twice as likely as Caucasians to have diabetes. Nearly 13 percent of African-Americans over the age of 20 are living with diabetes, and the numbers are still rising. If your mother, father or grandparents have type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in adults, you are more likely to develop it, too.
The good news is making healthy food choices and staying active can help you prevent or delay the disease.
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
  • Talk to your health care provider about a prevention plan.
  • Lose weight. Even losing 10 pounds can lower your risk.
  • Move more each day. Be physically active for 30 minutes, five days a week. You can walk, dance, work out, just move!
  • Reduce portion sizes. You can reduce your calories by eating smaller portions. You don’t have to cut out the foods you love to eat. Just cut downon your portion size and eat it less often.
  • Eat healthy and drink water – add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and drink more water.
You can use the plate planner to help you with meal planning.
Know the warning signs
You can have diabetes and not know it. In addition, some of the symptoms for diabetes are similar to other conditions. The warning signs include:
  • Frequent urination
  • Being thirsty
  • Feeling hungry a lot (especially after eating)
  • Being tired all of the time
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Bleeding and sore gums
If you experience any of these symptoms, see your health care provider as soon as possible and get tested for diabetes.
Control your diabetes if you have it
  • Don’t hide the fact that you have diabetes from your friends and family.
  • Set a goal to control your blood sugar. Take your medicine as recommended by your doctor.
  • If your doctor suggests that you need insulin, don’t be afraid of taking insulin. It may help you keep your eyesight, avoid kidney dialysis and amputations of your limbs.
  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Set goals to achieve the best diabetes control:
* Aim for a Hemoglobin A1c of less than 7 percent
* Aim for a fasting blood sugar between 90 to 130 mg/dl
* Aim for a blood pressure of <130/80
* Aim for a blood lipid test of <100 mg/dl
For more information about diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program: http://ndep.nih.gov/i-have-diabetes/index.aspx. It offers many free tools and information that can help you learn more about diabetes including prevention, treatment and management.
Dr. Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health plan cultural competency.
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